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  • 4 Website Add-Ons That Will Help You Grow Your List

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014 by
    Email Growth

    Your email list is a very powerful sales tool. Emails and newsletters are an effective, easy way to engage with your prospects, current customers, and other interested parties. If you aren’t utilizing your website to help capture visitors’ information and grow your list, you are missing out on an important marketing opportunity. Here are four simple website add-ons that will help make the process easier.


    1. Integration with Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/LinkedIn

    Social media is an integral part of so many people’s days. You want to make your social media presence well-known on your site, while making it easy for your visitor to share your content with others.

    Evaluate your business audience and pick the two most-used social media platforms and establish a strong presence there. Then, add the corresponding social media buttons in prominent places on your website.

    The benefits to this technique are two fold. First, you can often capture your visitors information when they share your page via your own social media buttons. You will know what content they find interesting and then have a way to engage them in the future. Second, they are essentially endorsing your webpage to their friends and network, effectively garnering more visitors.


    2. A pop-up email capture

    When someone visits your site the hard work has already been done for you - they are already interested. One easy way to get their information is through a simple pop-up. Pop-ups can be fairly controversial and there are lots of people out there that don’t like them. However, there are multiple methods that are both unobtrusive and effective.

    These tools include pop-down bars, splash pages, hover boxes, and more. Do your research and look at all the options available to determine which one will work best for your customers. Keep in mind that you don’t have to assault them with a pop up the second they visit your site. You can wait until the second or third pageview before displaying the pop-up in order to ensure that they are interested.


    3. PDF downloads and premium content

    Content is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website. Quality content will help engage your reader and develop your authority in your area of business.

    One great strategy to further grow your list is to offer PDF downloads or premium content, but only after they sign up for your email list. The content would still be free, but you can request a certain amount of information from your customer before they receive it.

    The added benefit of this route is that you are not just gathering their email address; you will also learn what topics interest them based on what content they clicked on or which PDF they downloaded. Make sure that the content is high-quality and useful though; tangible value is a boon for business.


    4. Subscribe via comment form or checkout process

    Consider all the places on your website where you’ve already requested your customer’s information. When customers are examining or commenting on your site, chances are they are required to provide their name and email address. Since they are already giving you their information this is a very simple place to add an opt in box.

    Make it an obvious part of the form fields to increase the subscription rate. Consider having it say something interesting such as “subscribe to our awesome newsletter for discounts and exclusives” rather than just “subscribe.” The more information you provide your customer with, the more likely are to opt in.

    Rather than growing your prospect list by buying names from a large company, you can start by looking at your own website to grow your list. These simple add-ons will help grow your list with very little effort on your behalf.

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  • These 5 Companies Owned By Google May Surprise You

    Friday, May 16, 2014 by
    Companies owned by Google Everyone knows that Google is a big deal.  Each year, news of Google’s new acquisitions makes headlines across the world and across the web, stunning analysts and everyday consumers alike. From little start-ups to longtime titans of industry, so many companies have been picked up that users often forget (or don’t realize) that their favorite app or software is now part of the Google machine. For some, this just means better service, better quality, and better integration on mobile platforms; for others, watching a beloved site or service get stripped for parts and silently assimilated into the inner workings of Google’s infrastructure can be disappointing to say the least. For better or worse, Google is making waves not just online, but in nearly every facet of our lives.  Here are five companies you didn’t know Google owns and what that means for you:  


    Social networking, mapping, and up-to-date traffic, all rolled into one app?  Sounds too good to be true, but that’s precisely what Waze is all about. Waze helps drivers help themselves by providing an outlet for folks to warn other drivers of potential delays and hazards by means of tweet-like posts.  This information then coalesces into a living map that shows drivers in the area just how long it will take to get from Point A to Point B, which roads to avoid, and even the location of speed traps. It isn’t hard to see why Google would want to snatch these guys up.  With close to a billion downloads of Google Maps from Google Play alone, adding the social networking power of Waze to the application gives users the unparalleled quality of Google’s navigation interface, In addition, the benefit of sourcing information about travel times and level of traffic from drivers on location is hard to beat.  And with the recent launch of Google Now, Waze data is seamlessly integrated into Google Maps’ auto-updates for an even more intuitive traffic alert system.  


    Home automation is still a relatively new concept for many consumers.  The idea of sending a text message to your alarm system because you forgot to arm it on the way out the door—much less having your fridge text you when Timmy sneaks some cake in the middle of the night—still sounds like something from The Jetsons. But Nest, founded by Tony Faddell and Matt Rogers, the same guys who brought us the iPod, is all about making your home smart, from thermostats to alarm systems.  Nest was picked up in January 2014 by Google in its quest to branch outside the worldwide web and into your living room. Acquiring Nest helps Google build their stockpile of resources for total home integration with Android devices that are already making everything from turning on the outdoor lights for a party to setting the timer on the sprinklers easier than updating your Facebook status.  Expect big things from this merger: with Nest’s innovation and Google’s infrastructure, we are stepping into a brave new world.  


    Google almost acquired rival company Yelp back in 2011, but picked up Zagat instead after the deal fell through. Prior to merging with Google, Zagat.com was a subscription-based service, offering its vast cache of knowledge only to those who paid a premium.  Zagat membership is now free—as long as you sign up with Google+, that is. But whether you subscribe to Zagat or not, Google has tightly and seamlessly integrated Zagat reviews and information into its standard Google search, so even casual users benefit.  The novelty and prestige may have taken a backseat, but picking a restaurant for that special occasion has just become much easier.  


    A short-lived but popular gesture recognition program, Flutter was acquired by Google in October 2013.  Due to its native integration with applications like YouTube, Chrome, Netflix and Pandora, Flutter was a prime candidate to springboard Google’s gesture recognition ventures moving forward. Users of the original Flutter app need not worry that it’s merely been stripped for parts—the download can still be found here. As with a few other apps, merging with Google bodes well for both Flutter veterans and newcomers alike. As Google engineers hone and develop gesture recognition for more and more programs, it will become a smoother, more universal experience across the board.  

    Boston Dynamics

    This is actually just one of about a half dozen or more robotics companies bought up by Google in early December 2013, along with Redwood Robotics, Meka Robotics, Holomni and others.  Boston Dynamics is best known for the DARPA-funded BigDog, essentially an automated four-legged pack mule designed to carry gear for soldiers over terrain too rough for vehicles. What does Google intend for these companies?  It isn’t too clear yet, but whether they are planning on putting these firms to use in vamping up their manufacturing capital in preparation for the Google Car, or if they have bigger plans in mind (humanoid robots?), picking up so many robotics companies suggests that Google is gearing up for some big, exciting things.   Whether it results in overall better quality or if an app or service is simply assimilated into the infrastructure, Google’s acquisitions are taking tech in bold new directions.  As its influence pervades every aspect of our lives, more and more companies are sure to follow.  And whether we embrace it or not, this snowball-effect is pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible, and that’s a very exciting thing.
  • How to Effectively Integrate Your Marketing Efforts

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014 by

    As the Internet becomes a more commonly used tool for consumers to locate companies and products they are interested in, it is becoming more and more important for companies to effectively integrate their marketing efforts into the online arena.

    Many companies are still operating as if their online marketing efforts are entirely separate from the rest of their advertising campaigns. In fact, in the 21 essential for your company to integrate all of your marketing campaigns in order to ensure one cohesive message.

    Potential consumers are easily turned off by a lack of continuity across varying advertising platforms. Being promised one thing and receiving another proves frustrating for everyone involved.

    As a marketer, you should take steps to make sure that your efforts are helping your company realize its maximum potential. Organizing an effective and cohesive marketing strategy that includes both online and offline marketing doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult.

    Here are a few easy tips designed to help you effectively integrate your marketing efforts:  

    Define Your Focus

    A vast majority of marketing efforts today fail to focus on the big picture. A company that fails to inspire their employees to concentrate their marketing efforts will most likely encounter a lack of success when it comes to attracting potential customers.

    Today, the most effective integrated marketing campaigns usually come down to how well companies can brand themselves. Every company should take time to research how they want to shape their own brand, what is important to their customers when making a purchase, and what makes their company unique from their competitors.


    Identify Marketing Channels

    Many people think about integrated marketing as a wide range of marketing messages that reach consumers on every channel possible. In reality, trying to reach every channel can actually result in fragmentation of your desired marketing message.

    The advertising arena today is incredibly saturated with messages from millions of companies around the world. Fragmented messages can actually limit the effectiveness of your communications in the channels that are most important to your company.

    Limiting your company’s message by trying to disperse it across every possible medium will simply result in your message becoming subject to the ‘needle­in­a­haystack’ syndrome. Identifying the marketing channels that will have the most impact on the customers you are targeting is essential to any successful integrated marketing effort.


    Sync Your Efforts

    Once you have successfully identified the channels you believe will be most effective to capture customers, you need to take time to organize and coordinate all forms of your marketing communications.

    As mentioned above, companies who do not present a coordinated, cohesive message across all of their marketing platforms can easily discourage their customers. Every channel should have a message that focuses on the same positive aspects of your business.


    Think Global, Act Local

    Companies in the 21st Century have a much greater potential to reach customers on a global level than ever before. The Internet provides companies with a simple platform that allows them to reach international consumers quickly and efficiently.

    Many businesses fall into the trap of excessively tailoring their messages to the local consumers that are interested in their products. Too much local focus can actually compromise a company’s ability to maintain consistent messages across various channels.


    While tailoring niche messages will certainly allow companies to capture larger segments of the local market, companies must be careful to maintain consistent and reliable messages.

    Keeping your key marketing elements in mind throughout your integrated marketing efforts will allow you to remain consistent, and maximize your potential.

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  • 15 Keys to Providing Customer Service Through Social Media

    Monday, April 7, 2014 by
    15 Keys to Providing Customer Service Through Social Media Social media is great for connecting your business to your customers, and allowing them to have direct close access to you can be a boon for your brand image. However, unfettered access also means that more customers feel free to complain either directly or indirectly about companies through social media. In this media climate, it’s important to leverage your PR skills to positive effect, and here’s how.  

    Respond quickly

    Your customer turned to social media to complain because they are looking for an immediate response, and while you may be busy with product development meetings or vendor calls, these seemingly-small, Facebook-born comments should receive similar attention. Make sure that you get back to them as soon as you see the complaint.


    Have a dedicate twitter account for issues

    Social media is all about context, which is why big corporations create accounts specifically for reporting and responding to issues, decluttering their primary social feed and filtering the important messages from the fluff. Nike and Comcast are two examples of companies that have dedicated accounts on twitter for customers experiencing issues for precisely these reasons. If your company is big enough, create a dedicated account where customers can reach you when something has gone amiss.


    Be responsive around the clock

    Know your business well and when your customers will be using your services. If you are a restaurant, for example, you can expect to hear from customers late in to the evening if they have had a bad dinner experience. Monitor your account around the clock as best you can or, better yet, dedicate staff to the task so that you can respond quickly.


    Address the issue and offer a solution

    In your response, be sure to restate the problem so it is clear you understand it, and give your customer a solution if one is available. Communication requires empathy and efficiency, and this approach will achieve both.


    Offer new information they might not have access to

    Airlines can frequently update the customer as to the status of cancelled or delayed flights quickly before that information is disseminated at the gate. Give the customer all the information you have as they might not have access to it. This will also show that you are paying close attention to their particular circumstances.


    If no solution is available offer empathy

    Sometimes no immediate solution is available, but it is important to respond as fast you can. A simple “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. That sounds like an awful time/situation/experience. We are working on it and will get back to you soon” can calm an angry customer while you work on a solution.


    Direct them to resources where answers or solutions may be found

    When you can’t provide the solution over social media, let them know where they can go to receive resolution, be it an email address they need to contact or a store manager they need to talk to directly. Keep in mind that social media channels aren’t the most appropriate avenue for obtaining things like account numbers or private information, so be sure to direct them to someone offline that can help them.


    Be aware of your twitter account and follow your tags and hashtags

    Someone on your staff needs to have alerts set for any tags or hashtags customers might

    utilize to try and reach you. Pay attention to them, particularly if you intend to use them for support purposes.


    Answer all of the questions asked (not just the easy one)

    When writing your response go back and look at the original complaint. It may be easy to address just one issue but they may have had several questions or concerns. Address each and every one, clearly and effectively.


    Rectify what you can

    Make the situation right as fast as you can. You can’t fix every aspect of their problem but whatever issue you can fix, do so quickly. Remedying even a portion of the customer’s problem will be seen as progress and improve your image as a result.


    Follow through with the issue

    Chances are you won’t solve the problem on the first go around so go back and check in with your customer. Did they get a new flight? Was the broken item replaced? Etc etc. Follow up with the customer and demonstrate compassion, empathy, and dedication to their needs in the process. Do not wait to be asked for additional assistance!


    Show customer appreciation

    Proactively reach out to customers who are mentioning your company in a positive way. If someone takes a picture at your business and tags you, repost/retweet it! If you get a positive review on Facebook contact the customer and say thank you. These small actions will show that you are listening, potentially turning one time reviewers into brand evangelists.


    Provide a real world solution

    The coffee was cold? Offer to replace their cup free of charge. Car wasn’t repaired properly? Have them bring it back in. If it was a tangible problem offer a tangible solution, and remember that generosity is remembered, blogged about, rewarded, and retweeted.


    Don’t remove complaints

    It can be tempting to remove a complaint after you have addressed the concern, but leaving them alone should be standard practice for your business. Make sure that your responses and solutions are in the comments section or your direct reply to the tweet. New customers will see the complaint but also see that you were responsive and accommodating to customer needs.


    Be professional

    Above all reply and act in a professional manner. Your customer might be rude or upset but it is your job to maintain your calm and mitigate the situation as fast as you can. Remember: a crabby customer is an issue, but a positive response is an asset, and your customers will notice that.

    In an age of ubiquitous social media, communication comes from many inboxes. Tend to your Twitter and Facebook accounts and exercise professionalism, and your wall will become a testament to your dedication to your customers.
  • Inexpensive Tools To Help You Increase Online Sales

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by
    Inexpensive Tools To Help You Increase Online Sales Fostering additional sales is a priority of virtually every business on the planet. After all, growth requires additional revenue, allowing you to reinforce your offerings to better serve your customers. However if you are a startup, or simply cash-strapped, you probably don’t have the capital to pour thousands into sales lead services. Thankfully there are several tools available to help increase online sales that are both efficient and inexpensive.  

    Lead Generation

    ZoomInfo Community Edition - ZoomInfo offers several paid plans but has a free database with over 60 million contacts available under its community edition license. The caveats are two-fold: you have to share your business contacts with ZoomInfo and you are limited to 100 contacts per month. If you are just starting out, it is an excellent tool for leveraging a community of aspiring businesses to the success of all involved. Lead411 - Another searchable database, Lead411 offers great detailed information including email addresses and phone numbers for contacts. It is not free, but is a reasonable $29.95 per month and offers you access to over 100,000 company profiles and 700,000 executives. If you decide to upgrade to the $39.95 plan, you are permitted access to nearly three times that many contacts. The one drawback with this particular service is the sometimes questionable quality of the information therein, so tread with caution. Jigsaw - Jigsaw is part of the prolific and ubiquitous Salesforce.com. You earn points for adding or updating any of their contacts and can then use those points on free contacts. They offer paid plans but if you are cash strapped you can start out by earning free credits and building your address book in the process. All listings include name, title, email, phone number and address.  

    Pipeline and Contact Management

    Zoho - Zoho is a customer relationship management (CRM) program unlike any other. The basic level is free and allows you to have up to three users and 5,000 records. With mobile access and a usable interface, the app sets itself apart from competitors, to your benefit. In addition, it can scale with your business and the upgraded plan is only $12 per month. Streak - if you are using Gmail as your email client then you Streak is a must-have. It is a simple plugin that integrates your CRM directly into your inbox, enabling management of multiple contact conduits simultaneously. You can designate your contacts as leads, prospects, customers, etc all within Gmail. Furthermore, sharing data with co-workers is easy, allowing the ability to share part of your inbox with others. For the busy or forgetful business-person, it can even schedule emails to send later. Contact Monkey – Another powerful free add-on is Contact Monkey. This tool lets you know who opens the emails you have sent, how they opened it (mobile or desktop), and if they clicked on any links. When working to tailor your communications for best reception, this data is invaluable. Rapportive - When dealing with clients, context is crucial. Also an add-on to Gmail, this tool integrates all the data about your contact next to their emails for easy viewing and consideration. You will see their picture, pertinent data, and any public social networking info, giving you a comprehensive picture of their online presence. Newsle - If your contact appears in the news, it is always a great reason to touch base with them. Newsle tracks anyone you know with your social media network and notifies you if they appear in the news. It is a great way to have an excuse to get in touch with a prospect, either to capitalize on a financial success, or wish them well in the event of difficult times.   While this list is certainly not comprehensive, it is a great place to start. These inexpensive and free sales tools will help you generate some new sales leads and manage those leads more effectively to increase your online sales, synergizing to assist your business in one of its primary goals: revenue through efficient outreach.
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